Friday, October 28, 2016

Lucky Charm #PNIWritingChallenge Day 12

About a year ago I wrote a piece for E.C. Moore, an author I met and worked with through Booktrope. I proofread her YA book, Every Big and Little Wish, and when she asked me to write an essay  for a series she was doing on her blog called True Stories, I eagerly agreed. 

I wanted to link her blog (and my post) here, but, while I was able to locate it, I couldn't get it to load. I haven't been in touch with Elizabeth - E.C. Moore - much since the BT debacle last spring. Something I intend to remedy. I do, however, have my own copy of the essay I wrote. While the topic for her blog was a bit different than the one for this post, I believe it still fits.
Mimi was my grandmother. My mother was very young when I was born and relied heavily on her while I was growing up. I spent a great deal of time with Mimi and was very close to her. She collected many things like spoons and books, magnets and coins. Her house was full of meaningful knick-knacks; framed photographs and hand-made gifts given to her by her children, her grandchildren, and even her great-grandchildren. One thing she liked in particular were angels. She had little metal angels, their glass dresses matching the birthstones of each one of her four daughters. This quartet shared Mimi's living space with all sorts of other celestial beings, and quite often, a visitor's eye would fall upon one, two, or three sweet, winged creatures before it was time for them to depart. Although many people collect angels, and they are often seen in everyday places, I can never see one without thinking of Mimi.
In 2009, we were relocated to North Carolina. Mimi was the hardest person for me to say goodbye to. She suffered from macular degeneration, which made it hard for her to see, so we kept in touch through phone calls and letters she would dictate to my mom.
In 2012, my family was faced with another move; this time across the vast Atlantic to Linden, a small village near Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. By this time, Mimi was showing some signs of dementia, and her failing eyesight had grown worse. She didn't always remember where I was when I called. She recalled the names of our children, but often times spoke about them as if they were still infants or toddlers instead of the preteens they had become. She had difficulty grasping the fact that there was an eight-hour time difference between us, and when she remembered we were in Germany, she worried for our safety. The Germany she remembered was from her young adulthood, terrorized by Nazi's and full of danger.
Mimi’s health continued to decline. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and her daughters were faced with the emotional task of selling her house and moving her into a nursing home. I continued to speak to her on the phone, but it was clear to me that the disease had taken so much away from her. The last conversation we had was on Mother’s Day. She was very confused and disjointed. She died just a few days later.
My family and I flew back to Colorado to attend her funeral. I was asked to speak at the service and I delivered my part of her eulogy with a mixture of smiles and tears. I could not look at her lying in the casket, although I knew she’d be as beautiful in death as she had been in life. I didn’t want to remember her that way; cold and empty in a satin-lined box.
I’ve heard all my life that there is a heaven. If heaven exists, I know that’s where Mimi is right now. She has, undoubtedly, become like one of the angels she loved to collect. I’ve grown increasingly sure over the last couple of years that some part of Mimi is still here. Do I feel her every day? No, but she keeps showing up … and it’s always right when I seem to need her the most.
We made our way back home again; this time for good when my husband’s contract in Germany ended and he took a job in Colorado Springs. Our children and I arrived in the States first while Steven remained in Germany to tie up loose ends. We searched online for a suitable home, and one day we came across one that seemed to fit our needs. I was nervous. Choosing a home to rent is one thing, but choosing one to buy? It was largely up to me, and suddenly there was a lot of heavy responsibility on my shoulders.
Our realtor met us at the house and the first thing I saw when we pulled up was a stone angel sitting above the curved entryway. We had seen something above the semi-circle of bricks in the photos online, but it wasn’t clear enough to make out. There she was to welcome us; her head bowed and her hands cradling a book.

When we went inside, there were no family pictures on the walls, and some furniture had already been moved out. There were still some plants and rugs, but what stood out the most were all of the angels that decorated the space. The house wasn’t new. It was built in 1970; just a year before I was born, and even though it had been given a few updates, there was aging wallpaper everywhere, and the doors and carpets were all mismatched. The stairs squeaked, and the yard was an over-grown mess. It was only a few days before Christmas and there was snow on the ground. The trees were bare, the sky was overcast and the weather made everything seem a bit bleak—but something about it felt right. The neighborhood seemed fitting, and the house … There was just something about it that I couldn’t pin down, but it felt to me like we belonged there.
We saw a couple of other houses, all of them newer and closer to Steven’s office. None of them felt the way the house with the reading angel did. I told the realtor to move ahead, hoping we were doing the right thing. A few days later, the kids went Christmas shopping with their grandfather. When they came back, my son pulled from his pocket an oval shaped piece of silver, about the size of a quarter. He said he saw it in the parking lot and brought it home to show me. It was like a pendant, although there was no hole at the top in which to hang it from. I ran my fingers across the raised design and realized it was an angel with wings outstretched. I felt my stomach tighten. Was Mimi trying to speak to me? Was she telling me that this was the right house?

What would have been Mimi’s ninetieth birthday fell on Easter that year. Although I am close to my extended family, we had not spoken to each other about plans for the holiday. We, like most families, split holidays between one side or other. There are a lot of us and we aren’t always together, but Mimi loved it when we were. As the four of us trudged across the grass in the cemetery where Mimi was buried, I looked up to see half a dozen of my relatives headed to the very same spot from the opposite direction. There were lots of hugs, and we were all happy to see one another. I never thought it was strange that they, too, would come to the cemetery and put flowers on Mimi’s grave for her birthday. I did think it was a happy coincidence that we should show up at the same time. After I gave it a little more thought, I began to feel a bit suspicious. If Mimi had the power to get us all together in one spot at the exact same time, I wouldn’t put it past her to use it.
On our way home we drove through a series of rain storms. Off in the distance I saw a rainbow, and once again I thought of Mimi. She told me many times when I was young that rainbows symbolized a promise from God. She read to me from the book of Isaiah in the Bible that said “I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, and will not rebuke you. For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you.“ I watched the rainbow and waited for it to fade, but it only grew brighter. I began to cry as I wondered if that was Mimi’s way of telling me that she would always be with me. As soon as I voiced the thought aloud to my husband and children, the rainbow started to fade. Was it my imagination? Maybe, but I don’t believe it.

Mimi was a powerful woman for me. She wasn’t loud. She wasn’t forceful. I don’t remember her yelling, and she was very rarely angry, but she had a presence about her. Everyone that knew her loved her. Everyone that met her remembers her. I don’t know about ghosts, and I’m not sure how I feel about heaven or angels, but I do know that a part of Mimi lives on. I don’t have to understand it to be grateful for it.

I never had a lucky charm before that day Scotty brought me that silver angel. I don't carry it around with me, but I keep it in a special place. I pull it out once in a while and brush my finger tip across the raised figure.

I know that it's not uncommon for people to think of a loved one who is gone when they see a rainbow. I've heard that mentioned more than a time or two. It's certainly true for me.

Angels and rainbows. Yes, if I had to choose a lucky charm, it would be those two things. To me they are Mimi, and whether or not they actually bring me luck is not a question I can answer. They do bring me comfort, however. Maybe that's a little like the same thing.